Scene and Heard – CCCXV: Everyone – The Gospel General (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

11081465_1567444826876379_3118698558300442032_nFaith is a very personal concept, music however is universal and it is the most natural thing in the world to use music as a way of celebrating it, expressing your adoration and adherence and spreading the word which you hold dear. It is safe to say that it is one of the main the reasons music even survived and evolved through the ages, most early music being devotional in nature and sacred in purpose.

And if the thought of music coming from such a very personal, driven by religious devotion then don’t worry because, as is often the way with gospel music, the song doesn’t just appeal to those of a certain faith or indeed of any faith, the message is always so universal, so relatable that whether the helping hand in question is from a higher power or just a concerned friend, the message of friendship and love is what matters. Yes, this comes from a faith based place, anyone calling themselves The Gospel General leaves that in little doubt but it is also very much about the human condition and who amongst us can say that they have never needed a hand up from time to time. This song could be merely a reminder that life is a team effort or it could be about something bigger than human understanding, it just depends on where you stand on such things. But no matter which end of the spectrum you find yourself at, it still has something important to say. 

And musically there is a lot to love as it quickly moves from its gentle balladic introduction into funkier, sassy pop-gospel waters, zinging with vibrance and celebration. And that is the addiction of gospel music, especially when it comes in such an accessible package, the ability to deliver its message and be simply a fun piece of music along the way. That’s how you spread the word.

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Scene and Heard – CCLI : In You –  Geni (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

geni_5.jpgFaith is a very personal concept, music however is universal and it is the most natural thing in the world to use music as a way of celebrating your faith, expressing your adoration and adherence and spreading the word which you hold dear. It is safe to say that it is one of the main the reasons music even survived and evolved through the ages, most early music being devotional in nature and sacred in purpose. And whilst religious terms may put some listeners off, after all we don’t all see the world the same way, In You, carries a very universal and relatable message. Belief. Not just in a higher power but in yourself, the people around you, belief that you can get through the worst times, belief that things will get better.

Geni was inspired to write it after reading a  note from someone that she knew, someone. who had become so overwhelmed by the pressures of life that they saw suicide as the only way out. She says that she prayed asking God for the right words to counsel him with and the song just began to take form .She knew then that the song was the direction he needed.

And musically too, In You is totally accessible in a wider musical context. It may adhere to the gospel genre in its lyrical delivery but musically it reminds us that genres move on and grow and this falls as much into the realm of balladic pop as it does the traditional and iconic sound of the gospel genre.

It is a soft and subtle song, one that sits easy on the ears yet has a message that can’t be ignored, but neither does it ever feel as if it is preaching. It is based on love, sentiment, faith and emotion, and is celebratory without being too obvious about it. And whilst Geni is blessed with a wonderfully sweet and resonant voice it is an inherent sensitivity and passion which shines through the song more than anything.

Go Down – Eli Lev (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Eli_Lev.pngGroove is more than the sum of its parts and Go Down is the perfect lesson in this fact. Yes, there is enough pop and sass in the bass line, enough swing in the beat and more than enough space between allowing these to pervade and mix perfectly without stepping on each others toes, but it is more than that too. It is the sultry flow, the understated guitars, the southern breeze that flits through (even smarter considering that the band are from Washington DC) and just something that hangs in the air between the notes, beats and lyrics.

Okay, its Americana, in this case a blend of folk and blues, gospel undertones and a suppleness and subtly, eloquence and elegance which only comes together this effortlessly when assembled by those with that country’s blood in its veins and dirt on its boots.

The charm here is Eli Lev’s ability to write concise, memorable rolling riffs, his skill at knowing how to thread the bare minimum together to great effect and create a sound built on sparse beats, spare yet pulsing bass lines and killer vocal deliveries. He also appears to write songs which, without intentionally aiming for the commercial market, are often as addictive, groovesome and rug cuttingly contagious as anything deliberately trying to play that game. Lev just does it at half the speed with a quarter of the beats and a fraction of the notes and still comes out a clear winner.

This Is Why –  Samie Bisaso (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

cover_This_is_whyiTuneIt is the most natural thing in the world to use music as a way of celebrating your faith, expressing your adoration and adherence and spreading the word which you hold dear. It is safe to say that it is one of the main the reasons music even survived and evolved through the ages, most early music being devotional in nature and sacred in purpose. Fast forward to the modern age and music is now made for a whole range of reasons and across a multitude of genres, but artists like Samie Bisaso not only remain loyal to their cause but are clever enough to understand that to be effective his music needs to be on equal terms with that around him. And so This Is Why is a collection of soulful and infectious pop, addictive R&B grooves, Afrobeat rhythms and much more besides. And as a method of delivering a message it is the perfect way of reaching a wide audience and of course once you reach that audience they are free to revel in the music, explore the lyrics or hopefully do both.

This is Why is the long awaited follow up to the acclaimed Million Pieces which won album of the year in Christian and Gospel genres and which includes two singles which have already been both critically and commercially well received. Samie himself explains the reason behind his passion, “In a society of bold secular…which is turning away from the things of God, I wish to bring to the music arena material that is not only clean, uplifting and catchy, but songs that make people think about the realities of life, love and most importantly, Jesus Christ. Each song is written to inspire. I hope you enjoy my music and take the lyrics to heart. They are written from the core of my soul. And I pray that through my songwriting I bring some extra happiness and thought to your days.”

It is an album which covers a lot of ground from The Goodness, an exotic collection of contagious African beats to the slick balladic pop of Your Love and from the cinematic and widescreen soundscapes of Be Still to the slick, jazz infused title track. This may be an album whose sole intent (make that soul intent) is to spread the message of the Gospels but it is anything but a gospel music album, not in the traditional sense anyway. Maybe this is the sound of nu-gospel, if that is even a thing, and if it isn’t maybe it should be, maybe we all need to move with the times, move away from the traditional image, and indeed sound, of the devotional music of the past and embrace more contemporary sounds. Samie Bisaso has and the result is something which neatly connects two worlds, those already in the know and those who may wish to explore the albums message more thoroughly. It may be a collection of musical styles, a blend of genres but lyrically there is no ambiguity.

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Gospel music is often accused of following its traditions too closely, of moving too slowly, of sticking to the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” ethic but Samie Bisaso shows us that the potency of such music and therefore the effectiveness of the message can be increased ten fold when you don’t worry about where the musical barriers lie, when you wander more contemporary or wide-ranging musical pathways.

This Is Why certainly comes from the heart and may be familiar in its message but it is Samie’s ability to embrace such a wide sound palette, to be forward looking and, sonically of the moment that makes this such an effective album. So much so that even if the message isn’t necessarily one that resonates with your own life, musically it is still an interesting, intriguing even, range of songs and can be embraced just for its musicality and deft songwriting as much as it can for its higher purpose.

The official music video for the albums title track, This Is Why will be available on general release on  17th November.

You can get your copy  n-iTunes-https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/this-is-why/1297105284?i=1297105289,

Give Me Faith – Jesse Morgan ft. Israel Houghton (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

GiveMeFaithSingle_coverJesse Morgan is nothing if not versatile. With his previous single, Here We Stand, the drive behind his expansive and soulful voice comes from a more rock environment with guitars providing chiming motifs or explosive energy. Give Me Faith, however, has a more R&B feel to it, a pop sense and a soul heart. The former is also more of a shout it from the rooftops anthem whereas this time around the song feels more like a one on one conversation, an intimate confessional, a personal message but with universal resonance.

As always harmony is high on the list of boxes to be ticked, close multiple harmonies hang on his every world building in passion and power as the song heads towards it’s crescendo; pianos build, strings sweep forward and the song becomes as vocally intricate as it does musically hypnotic.

Jesse Morgan is the epitome of the modern gospel singer, obviously the message is the driving point, the whole reason he is performing but the skill is also to move with the times. Here, he wonderfully acknowledges the musical traditions of his chosen genre but the fact that he is so able to weave them through contemporary pop, soul and dance vibes keeps them musically relevant as well as lyrically poignant. Never has a message been so wonderfully wrapped.

Available on iTunes: http://bit.ly/GiveMeFaithiTunes

Shine Your Love – Kathryn Shipley (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Shine_Your_Love__Final_Single_Coverhigh1400x1400I’m not sure why we feel the need to specifically label devotional music as a separate genre from secular. Gospel? Christian rock? What does it all mean? After I all I don’t remember anyone feeling the need to call The Beastie Boys Buddhist Rap or label Pink as Passover-Pop. All that really matters for Kathryn Shipley is that her faith and her love of music can come together in such a wonderfully complimentary way and I really doubt that she cares what anyone else thinks on the matter.
What is obvious though is that such a meeting of two very important parts of her life is able to such personal create music, but which whilst being the perfect carrier for her world-view and beyond, also speaks to the secular listener. The core of Gospel music is built from much of the same elements as soul music and Shine Your Love is a perfect example of a song that straddles the boundaries of the two.

It is a soft and subtle song, one that sits easy on the ears yet has a message that can’t be ignored, but neither does it ever feel as if it is preaching. It is based on love, sentiment, faith and emotion, and is celebratory without being too obvious about it. And whilst Kathryn is blessed with a wonderfully powerful and resonant voice it is an inherent sensitivity, which shines through the song more than anything.

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